Monthly Archives: January 2010

new year’s resolutions: UPDATE

Well, it’s been a month since my obligatory New Year’s Resolution post so I thought I’d post my progress.

1. Begin composting and start a small garden — UPDATE — It’s still really cold here, so not a lot of actual progress has been made. But, we went to the library this week and got a couple books on organic gardening, and these posts over at Keeper of the Home have been extremely helpful as well. I ordered my Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds catalog, and have written down what things we would like to try this year based on what I have looked at on their site. I love me some fresh-off-the-vine tomatoes in the summer, and feel that they might be hardy enough that I won’t kill them that they’ll survive my tender loving care. So I have plans to try a couple different varieties of tomatoes. Tim wants to try peppers (he loves spicy food) so we’re going to try a hot variety (purple jalapeno) and a sweet variety (sweet yellow stuffing peppers).  We’re also going to try some green beans (not sure what variety yet) and I have some interest in growing a few herbs as well, but I think I might do those in containers on our patio. Thai sweet basil sounded yummy, as we love Thai food, as well as lavender and thyme. Experienced gardeners: your thoughts? Does this sound like too much for two very inexperienced gardeners? What would you recommend starting out with?

2. Start running again. — UPDATE — Uh. Well. As it turns out, Sam refuses to nap at my friend’s house, so the whole plan of running on her treadmill a couple times a week during Sam’s nap didn’t really work out. I’m a little discouraged, but I’ve been researching what other options I might have for exercising without a gym membership. I have several DVDs I could pop in, but the problem with DVDs is that I grow bored of them quickly. Plus, many of the ones I have run too long (an hour or more) and are currently beyond my fitness level (sad, but true). So, I have started looking up bodyweight exercises I can do to get back into shape. My new plan is to work on total body conditioning through calisthenics. When am I going to embark on this new plan, you might ask? In the morning. Before Sam wakes up. That’s right, I am going to start getting up and staying up after Sam wakes up to nurse at 6:30- to 7, rather than going back to bed after he goes back to sleep for a couple hours. I’ll have time to do 20 minutes of exercise, spend time with the Lord in His Word and prayer (most important thing), have an uninterrupted, peaceful cup of coffee, get some housework done, take a shower, etc. I really think it will be a beneficial time not only for my soul to start out the day with the Lord but also for my family as well as I seek to bless them through my mad cleaning and organizing skillz. With a z.  Plus, with exercise, I’ll look foxy for spring. OK, well, perhaps not foxy, but I will be healthier and in better shape. If foxiness happens, well…so be it.

3. Start FLYing. /4. Declutter — UPDATE — This is one area where I feel like I’ve done pretty well. My house is not perfect, and there is still lots of organizing and decluttering and cleaning to be done, but it’s not overwhelming as it once was. Even if things aren’t picked up currently, it’s nice to know that in 10-15 minutes, everything could be picked up and where it belongs for the most part. If someone suddenly stopped by I wouldn’t feel totally embarassed. So those are all good things. I am learning. There are areas where I want to move forward though, as just the basics are pretty much covered for now. I want to start menu planning (as a part of Menu Plan Monday) on a consistent basis as a means to stick to our food budget and to start eating healthier. I mean, we already eat fairly healthy, but there’s definitely some stuff that could improve (i.e. cutting back on refined sugars and flours, and stepping up the fresh produce). The problem with menu planning is that I feel I get stuck in cooking ruts where we have the same 4 meals over and over again. I want to branch out more. What are some of your favorite frugal and healthy meals?

So that’s the update. All in all I’m encouraged by my progress. I feel that the Lord is stretching me in many areas, and it’s been a good thing as I seek to mature in the faith and as a human being.

Look tomorrow for my Menu Plan Monday post!


behold, sam walks!

Sam has been standing on his own more and more these days, and yesterday, when we turned on some music, he would ‘dance’ without having to hold onto anything. We, of course, thought this was adorable, so we wanted to take a video. Well, from there he walked! And we have it on video! Tim claims Sam took his first steps while I was doing the dishes after dinner one night a few weeks ago, but since I wasn’t present to witness them, and he hadn’t done it since then, I count yesterday as his “first steps.” By bedtime yesterday he was walking nearly across the room, like he’d done it for years. Totally crazy.

It was a bittersweet moment for me — I didn’t cry, but I definitely heard my uterus whisper, “Your baby isn’t a baby; time for another one!” To which I replied: Shush, uterus, shush.

Anyway, the video. I’m the lady with the “mummy tummy” and the mullet, if you were wondering.

pseudo-faith v. real faith

Pseudo-faith always arranges a way out to serve in case God fails. Real faith knows only one way and gladly allows itself to be stripped of any second way or makeshift attributes. For true faith, it is either God or total collapse. And not since Adam first stood up on earth has God failed a single man or woman who trusted Him. The man of pseudo-faith will fight for his verbal creed but refuse flatly to allow himself to get into a predicament where his future must depend upon that creed being true. He always provides himself with secondary ways of escape so he will have a way out if the roof caves in. The faith of Paul or Luther was a revolutionizing thing. It upset the whole life of the individual and made him into another person altogether. It laid hold on the life and brought it under obedience to Christ. It took up its cross and followed along after Jesus with no intention of going back. It said goodbye to its old friends as certainly as Elijah when he stepped into the fiery chariot and went away into the whirlwind. It had finality about it… It realigned all life’s actions and brought them into accord with the will of God. What we need very badly these days are Christians who are prepared to trust God as completely now, as they must do at the last day. For each of us a time is coming when we shall have nothing but God! Health and wealth and friends and hiding places will all be swept away and we shall have only God. To the man of pseudo-faith, that is a terrifying thought, but to real faith it is one of the most comforting thoughts the heart can entertain. It would be a tragedy indeed to come to the place where we have no other but God and find that we had not really been trusting God during the days of our earthly sojourn. It would be better to invite God to remove every false trust, to disengage our hearts from all secret hiding places and to bring us out into the open where we can discover for ourselves whether we actually trust Him. This is a harsh cure for our troubles, but a sure one! Gentler cures may be too weak to do the work. And time is running out on us.

A.W. Tozer, source unknown, emphasis mine

sam’s birth story

For the first half of my pregnancy, I saw an OB for my prenatal care. As this baby was a, uh, happy surprise, at first I just made an appointment with my mom’s OB — the guy who actually delivered me and my younger sister. And, at first, I liked him. We had our first ultrasound at 7 weeks, saw that little flicker of a beating heart, and made an appointment to come back at 10 weeks. During those 3 weeks, I started thinking about what kind of birth I wanted for this baby. I had heard that epidurals crossed the placenta and I didn’t want my baby to be drugged and drowzy after he or she was born, but I didn’t think there was another way. My cousin had her second daughter without an epidural, in a water birth. I messaged her on Facebook and she said that she would do it again in a heartbeart. I started reading up on water birth and other natural pain management methods and decided to ask my OB about it at the 10 week appointment.

His response was less than encouraging. He dismissed water birth as “a fad”, said that the birth tubs went unused at many hospitals, said that there was no medical benefit for either the mother or the baby. I went away from the appointment dissatisfied with his response. Everything I had read (and I tend to read a lot about subjects I am interested in) made a water birth sound so peaceful, so calm, so natural. Why was he so dismissive or even hostile toward the idea? It was then that I began looking for another model of care.

Through a divinely-ordained series of events, I found a certified nurse midwife and a birth center about 45 minutes from where we were living at the time. After much prayer and research, I convinced my husband to take a tour of the facility. He wasn’t sure, but agreed to do the tour with me. I am so glad we did! We fell in love with the birth center; it was basically a bed and breaskfast where you came home with a baby (minus breakfast…but you get the idea). And the midwife was wonderful. I instantly felt at ease with her. I didn’t feel like I would have to fight for what I wanted all the time like I did with the OB.

We decided to switch to the midwife practice, deliver at the birth center, and signed up for Bradley classes. Our journey toward a natural birth had begun.

I was due Saturday, January 17, 2009. Saturday dawned and I was hugely pregnant (gaining 85 lbs will do that, thanks Brewer Diet and no exercise!), miserable, and overly emotional. We went to Meijer and I cried in the cereal aisle. People kept texting and Facebooking me asking if I was in labor or experiencing contractions. Of course I was not. That night we watched a movie (ironically, Knocked Up) and I started having what felt like Braxton-Hicks. I didn’t bother timing them or anything like that because I had been having Braxton-Hicks for weeks. We went to bed around 11. At some point the contractions changed. They felt different than I had felt before, but were not painful yet. I got up at 2am to use the bathroom. When I threw my huge body out of bed I felt a little trickle, but figured I had just completely lost control of my bladder. I peed and then felt a huge gush of water. My water had broken! I wasn’t going to be pregnant forever! I called for my husband and he called the midwife. She told us to try to get some rest, and to call her when the contractions were 5 minutes apart. Well, I tried to get some sleep but it seemed tha after my water had broken the contractions picked up. I needed Tim to help coach me through them. We called the midwife back an hour later. I tried to relax through contractions as Tim scurried to pack up the car and things. We finally left for the birth center at around 6:30am, arriving at around 7.

My mom and sister arrived a little later, and I just chatted with everyone for another hour. Andrea checked me and I was 3.5 cm and 90% effaced. Not bad, considering I had been fully closed and only 50% effaced a few days before at my last prenatal appointment. I really wanted to get in the birth tub but the midwife said I needed to progress further first. My mom and sister went to get some breakfast while Tim and I hopped (okay, lumbered) in the shower. He sprayed hot water on my back which felt so good. We stayed in there until the hot water ran out. Then I labored on the birth ball for a while because my back was killing me and rocking my hips felt good. I didn’t know it, but my little guy was posterior, causing me to have back labor.

Things start to get blurry at this point. I had Tim, my mom and sister all pray for me. I was getting really tired and the contractions were getting more intense. After what seemed like forever I was able to get in the birth tub. Oh, it was wonderful. I was able to really let go, relax, and just let my body do what it needed to do to open up. I was even able to sleep between contractions. I could have stayed in there forever, but after 2 hours or so the midwife said I needed to get out because my labor was stalling a bit and the contractions were slowing down.

I labored on my hands and knees on the bed for a while, trying to get that baby to flip. At some point I started to feel like pushing. Pushing was the hardest part. Relaxing through contractions was easy; now I had to be an active participant in my labor. I was scared and unsure. Ah, transition. I asked people to please kill me, to take me to the hospital and cut the child from my uterus. I kept asking Tim if he loved me.

It took me about an hour to figure out how to push. I wasn’t really sure how to work with my body, but eventually I figured it out. While pushing on my hands and knees there was another big gush of water and the midwife said that I moved the baby down considerably. He had turned! It was only 45 minutes of pushing after that until he was out. I really don’t even remember the “ring of fire.” Everything was pretty numb from pressure by that point. Also, amnesia. One final push and his head was out, then the midwife flipped him because his shoulder was stuck, and his shoulder slid out. I did tear a little, 2nd degree. I pushed for 2 hours and 45 minutes.

That’s a little longer than average for a first-time mom. Why did I push for so long? Did I mention he was 9 lbs 4.5 oz?! Yeah, he was huge! (Well, as my midwife Barb said, whether the baby is 6 lbs or 10 lbs, they all feel big coming out). I am so thankful that the Lord lead us to the birth center and the midwife model of care. In a hospital setting, I would have been sectioned for sure. Number one, he was posterior — had I had the epidural and been unable to labor in different positions, I would not have been able to get him to turn. Number two, he was big — some OBs flat-out refuse to let women deliver babies bigger than 9 lbs vaginally. Number three, I pushed for longer than 2 hours — and the biggest enemy of laboring women in hospitals is the clock. They simply run out of time.

My midwife and the birth attendants supported me and loved me, and most importantly, gave me time to labor. I never felt pressured or like I was on the clock. They simply had faith that my baby would be born.

And he was. Samuel Ezra was born at 4:42pm, after 15 hours of labor. I will never forget feeling him slip out of me and seeing him for the first time. He was so big and healthy and alert. Time seemed to slow down and I just took him in. I loved him instantly.

Although his birth experience was exactly what we had hoped for, I was disappointed in the hours immediately after he was born. The nurse sort of halfway tried to get him to latch on, but I had flat nipples and he was sleepy and so she just took him away to be weighed and whatnot while I got stitched up, and said that we’d try again later (we didn’t).  I was so out of it and tired but I wish I had the presence of mind to ask everyone to just leave the three of us (Tim, Sam, and I) alone for an hour and to see if Sam would self-attach. As it was, we ended up leaving the birth center 6 hours after he was born and going home having never latched him on. My mom didn’t breastfeed, so she wasn’t really able to help with hands-on help (although she was supportive) and of course, Tim and I knew nothing. So Sam lost a lot of weight and my supply dropped because he basically didn’t eat for the first 4 days of his life. Oops. I look at pictures of him from then and feel horrible. He looked so…well, hungry.  Thank the Lord that in a moment of desperation I googled “lactation consultants + Anderson, IN” and Jennifer’s name came up. She is the LC at Saint John’s, and I know without a shadow of a doubt that if were not for her help and support, Sam and I would not be breastfeeding. We had many, many obstacles to overcome and someday I’ll write about them, but that’s a post in and of itself.

The birth center also sent us home with a “breastfeeding support kit” from those staunch breastfeeding supporters, Enfamil. (That was tongue-in-cheek, if you couldn’t tell). I was a lot less crunchy than I am now back then, but I think had I known then what I know now I would have politely but firmly told them precisely where they could put that “breastfeeding support kit.” (Disclaimer: I don’t care if you choose to formula-feed. That is not the point I am making. I am simply irritated at companies exploiting mothers and babies for a profit. Disclaimer over).

I say all that to say this: I think I would deliver at Expectations (the birth center) again but I would want to talk with the midwife about the unhelpful nurse who took Sam away too quickly, and the formula samples. I really feel that taking Sam away so quickly interfered with our bonding. And, for a natural-family-living, crunchy birth center place, it really surprised me that they would hand out formula samples, as they have been proven the undermine the breastfeeding relationship during it’s most vulnerable time. A bottle seems so easy and convenient when you’ve been trying to get a sleepy (or, alternatively, a screaming) newborn to latch on for 30 minutes and you’re all pstpartum-y and crying and your boobs hurt and you’re so tired you just want to die and you feel like you got hit by a bus because you just pushed a kid out.

And, I’d post pictures of his birth for dramatic effect, but 98% of them are not fit for public consumption as I was nekked. Sorry.

in which i leave the cult of attachment parenting.

There is kindness in Love; but Love and kindness are not coterminous, and when kindness…is separated from the other elements of Love, it involves a certain fundamental indifference to its object, and even something like contempt of it. Kindness consents very readily to the removal of its object — we have all met people whose kindness to animals is constantly leading them to kill animals lest they suffer. Kindness, merely as such, cares not whether its object becomes good or bad, provided only that it escapes suffering. As Scripture points out, it is bastards who are spoiled; the legitimate sons, who are to carry on the family tradition, are punished. It is people for whom we care nothing about that we demand happiness on any terms; with our friends, our lovers, our children, we are exacting and would rather see them suffer much than be happy in contemptible and estranging modes. If God is Love, He is, by definition, something more than mere kindness. And it appears, from all the records, that though He has often rebuked us and condemned us, He has never regarded us with contempt. He has paid us the intolerable compliment of loving us, in the deepest, most tragic, most inexorable sense.

-C.S. Lewis, The Intolerable Compliment, The Business of Heaven

This post  has been a long time coming. I normally try to keep things as light and airy as angel food cake over here, but for today I’ll make things a bit more like pound cake. I am not sure where the cake metaphors are coming from, except that I just had cake, but it was a birthday cake and neither angel food nor pound cake. I like cake. Anyway. I digress.

You may be wondering what I mean with my title and the C.S. Lewis quote. Before I explain I want to say that I have many friends (in real life and over the internet) who subscribe to an attachment-style philosophy of parenting. When I call it a “cult” in my title I mean my adherence to the “letter of the law” of attachment parenting, and the guilt I felt when I strayed. I do not mean to imply that parents who choose this style of parenting are in a cult. OK. Disclaimer over.

Before I had Sam, I told myself I’d never do certain things with my kids. I’d never let him have a crusty nose. I’d never let him wear Crocs. And I’d never let him cry himself to sleep. Well, he has had a crusty nose on more than one occasion, he’ll likely wear Crocs this summer, and last night he did cry himself to sleep.

Before you start sending me links to all the articles about how horrible cry-it-out is, and recommend I read No Cry Sleep Solution, let me first say to save it. I know. I’ve read everything about cry-it-out, and I think it is far from the best “sleep solution” out there. On some level it does seem cruel and heartless. I’ve read, and re-read, dog-earred, and highlighted, and done NCSS. We did see some improvement when we did what it said; a bedtime routine and set bedtime helped Sam go to sleep predictably and easily. We transitioned him from sleeping only in bed with us and while touching someone to his own crib and his own room over a matter of weeks with the helpful suggestions of the book. So, NCSS wasn’t a total loss.

However, nothing we have done has helped Sam not wake up every 2-3 hours all night long, even though NCSS said he would.

We took it a step further and tried the somewhat gentler version of Ferber in Jodi Mindell’s Sleeping Through the Night. Didn’t work, even after doing it for 2 months. Sam had simply learned that if we cried for long enough, we’d eventually come in. And after an entire year of never sleeping for more than 3 hours at a time (or, very rarely when he randomly would go 4 hours), things were not good. Not good at all. I was a wreck. My house was a wreck. My marriage, dare I say, was a wreck. And I knew that something needed to be done. I really did not want to do cry-it-out. Please let me reiterate that I had read everything about it and had set my heart as dead-set against it.  But, over time, I started to question a few things about attachment parenting in general, and specifically, in regards to sleep.

I tend to be pretty baby-led in most things. Sam has always nursed on demand, and we did (and are doing) baby-led weaning with him. However, it’s not like he was able to do whatever he wanted with those things. If he bit me while nursing, I’d stop the nursing session and put him down. When we offered him solids, we’d offer him healthy, nutritious foods.  So, it wasn’t truly baby-led, in the truest sense. I took charge as his mom because as an adult, I know better of what he needs than he does. I can listen to his desires, but it is up to me as his parent to determine whether those are legitimate needs or not.  The overwhelming sense I got from attachment parenting philosophy was that infants and children knew what they needed better than anyone, and it was our job as parents to listen to what they needed and give it to them. Over time, I started to doubt the truthfulness of that approach.

Proverbs 22:15 says, “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.” I started to think about that in terms of Sam’s sleep. If I placed a framework around him in terms of nursing (i.e. no biting, we lie still, we don’t pinch, we don’t twiddle, we don’t put our feet in Mama’s face, etc), eating solids (i.e. healthy foods, as opposed to, oh…cake), and life in general (we don’t touch the lamp, or the electrical outlets even with plugs in them), why wouldn’t I create a framework with sleep? If folly is bound up in Sam’s heart (which I believe is true, as he was born with a sin nature), then can he really know what is best for him when it comes to sleep? Maybe some kids just sleep when they are tired. I did. My mom and dad would be like, “Where is Alissa?” and look around to find me in my bed, voluntarily taking a nap, at age 3.  Sam, it seems, is not a child who will just go to sleep when he is tired. He needs an adult who cares for him to step in and tell him when it is time to sleep.

I know some might argue that there are much gentler ways to teach Sam to sleep other than cry-it-out, and let me just say that we have tried them. All of them. I thought maybe he was sensitive to something in my diet so I cut out dairy to see if that helped him sleep longer (it didn’t). I thought maybe his pajamas were uncomfortable so we switched to cotton to see if that helped (it didn’t). We put a cool mist vaporizer in his room because I thought maybe the air was too dry to see if that helped (it didn’t). We tried giving him a big dinner to see if that helped (it didn’t). We created a bedtime routine and a set bedtime, which helped him go to sleep initially but didn’t stop the night waking. We tried putting him down drowsy but awake, which all the books said was the trick to stopping night waking. We tried chiropractic adjustments. We tried graduated extinction (i.e. Ferber, Mindell, et al) We tried literally everything, everything all the sleep books could throw at us, everything the internet could suggest, and nothing, NOTHING, helped him sleep longer than 2-3 hours.

Nothing, of course, except hardcore cry-it-out.

The very thought is repulsive to me. It is. But, I had to ask myself, which is worse: a few nights that really, really suck, or having a crazy, sleep-deprived mama who yells alot and bursts into tears randomly? A few nights of crying, or having his parents’ marriage fail because they were so tired and overextended and sad and grumpy all the time? It really was coming to that, folks. Things were not good around here.

In the end, we decided that we had exhausted all other options. Well, besides just continuing to function on 2 hours of sleep at a time for years until he decided to just sleep through the night magically.

I realize that deciding to do cry-it-out with my kid pretty much excludes me from the attachment parenting lunch table from now on. I’ll have to sit by myself in the mommyblog cafeteria and eat my organic, free-range chicken salad on sprouted whole wheat bread sandwich in isolation. It makes me kind of sad, being somewhere between the crunchy mamas and the not-so-crunchy mamas, because this is far from the only time in my life where I have felt I didn’t quite fit in any group. I liked belonging to something, which I think was partially my attraction to attachment parenting anyway. But it took me a while to realize also that my adherence to attachment parenting was an idol in my life.

Was I more committed to attachment parenting and what the moms on MotheringDotCommunity thought of me than I was to the well-being of my marriage and family? Was I out to prove to the world that I had “figured out” this whole mothering business and that everyone else was doing it wrong? It took me a while to realize that I was sticking with a failing experiment, something that attachment-parenting guru Dr. Bill Sears advocates against himself! All because I was too proud to admit that I didn’t have all the answers, didn’t have it all figured it out. As my friend Catherine points out on her awesome blog,

Methods are useful when they help you achieve your greater goals for your family. They are harmful when you find yourself serving the method rather than your family, or relying on a method more than you rely on God. It takes humility to admit that you’re on the wrong course and make a change.

I was relying more on a method than on God. And what’s funny is that God knows and loves my child even more than I do, and He made me Sam’s mama, faults and all.

At the end of the day, I do care about how Sam turns out. I don’t want him to suffer (to go back to the C.S. Lewis quote I mentioned, oh, eons ago), but I think he will suffer more having an insane mom and a grumpy dad than being left to figure it out and go to sleep on his own for a few nights.

As Sam’s mom I am called to more than mere kindness. Which means, of course, that I will have to make hard choices. I have a feeling that this one won’t be the last.

sam’s first year: a picture post

1 day old.

3 weeks

4 weeks

6 weeks

6 weeks

10 weeks — smiles! (and i caught it on camera!)

3 months

4 months

5 months

6 months

7 months — pulling up!

8 months

And onto year two.

This morning we had Sam’s 1-year wbv; his ped says he looks great. He weighed 23 lbs 8 oz (61st percentile), was 30 1/4 inches tall (65th percentile), and his head circumference was 18 3/4 inches (83rd percentile). Go Sam go!

a letter to Sam for his 1st birthday.

My dear sweet Sam,

My funny, inquisitive, snuggly, affectionate, stubborn little sleep-fighter. My sweet funny boy. What a year it’s been, no? In some ways it seems a lot longer than a year; haven’t I always known you, carried you in my heart, loved you? In other ways I can’t believe how quickly this year has flown by. I used to carry you in the crook of my arm, put tiny socks on your tiny feet, clean your umbilical cord stump. You nursed what seemed like constantly, preferring to sleep only where you could touch me. And by “prefer,” I mean “flat-out refused to sleep anywhere else for the first 7 months of your life.” Your birth was what I’d hoped and prayed for, but our first days together were not.  Mama had so much to learn. Still does.

I loved you instantly, completely and always, but I also felt a strange, unsettling urge to distance myself from you. Struggling through learning how to nurse with you forced me to stay close to you, get to know you, re-connect with you many, many times in a day.  I think people must think I am nuts for being such a strong supporter of breastfeeding, but that’s because it was through that medium that I learned how to read you, how to love you, how to be your mama.

We had to learn together, didn’t we? I think that’s what love is, baby boy — clinging together, hanging on, learning, learning, learning as we go along together. As I got to know you more, I loved you in a fuller, bigger, deeper way.

I pray for you daily, that you’d continue to grow up healthy and strong, that you’d one day learn to channel all that intensity and fierceness with which you fight sleep toward loving and serving Jesus. I pray for protection from all the (many) times I will screw up as your mama. I pray you’d keep your heart pure. I pray you’d keep your sweet spirit and not grow bitter and cynical. I pray I can show you who Jesus is, teach you to love Him as I learn to love Him. I pray for your salvation. I know God has His hand on you, and I pray that you wouldn’t waste your life on silly things like money or a good job or being good at sports or girls.

Don’t worry about girls.

As we go forward from babyhood into toddlerhood and beyond, know one thing — your mom and dad love you very much. You are a blessing.

Happy first birthday, my sweet Samuel Ezra.